DNR board considers fees, regional cuts
Fees could be increased and area service centers could close if the Department of Natural Resources Board adopts the agency's proposed budget. Board members today will review a 2007-09 biennial budget plan that suggests closing five DNR service c...
Fees could be increased and area service centers could close if the Department of Natural Resources Board adopts the agency's proposed budget.
Board members today will review a 2007-09 biennial budget plan that suggests closing five DNR service centers, including ones in Ashland, Cumberland and Ladysmith. The spending cuts reflect a directive to show where 10 percent can be trimmed from administrative spending.
To increase revenue, the DNR proposes:
- A new $10 elk tag application fee, generating $200,000.
- A $2 camping fee increase, generating $352,100 in 2008 and $1.2 million in 2009.
- Raising boat registration fees by about 30 percent, generating $3.9 million through 2010.
- Increasing the vehicle title transfer fee by $1.50 to generate $2.1 million a year.
State Sen. Bob Jauch has objected to the service center cuts, which he says are based on the volume of license sales at individual offices.
"This proposal is unfair to northern Wisconsin and contributes to the trend of reducing services and options to rural residents while those fortunate enough to live in population centers to not share in the inconvenience," he wrote in a Dec. 4 letter to the DNR Board. "Whenever cuts in state services are proposed, rural Wisconsin always feels the brunt of the pain."
If the service centers are closed, users must travel to alternative offices in Superior, Park Falls, Spooner or Hayward. They also can visit Automated License Issuance System vendors or purchase online, but Jauch said "neither provides the customer service nor the expertise to accurately clarify the rules and address the questions of the customer."
As part of its spending request, the DNR seeks $104,100 in 2008 and $80,000 in 2009 to support a sustainable all-terrain vehicle trail system on the Northern State Forests. The money would be used to assess the suitability of existing trails, evaluate potential new trail locations and improve trail safety through maintenance, education and enforcement.
"The competition for trail systems, especially by users of motorized recreational vehicles, is creating significant demand for new trails, growing concerns regarding ecological damage, increasing enforcement needs and interest in ATV regulations. Active planning and collaboration are needed to find methods to minimize user conflicts and to maintain the sustainability of the forest resource," the agency says in its 31-page proposal.
It was unclear whether the DNR board would adopt the recommendations today or ask Gov. Jim Doyle to include them in his February biennial budget plan.